A New York Reading List for the 2017 College Art Association Conference

UC Press is exhibiting at the College Art Association Conference February 15–18 in New York, and we can’t wait to see you there! Be sure to stop by booth #605 for discount details on all UC Press art books and follow @educatedarts, @collegeart, and the hashtag #CAA2017 for meeting news—including an upcoming series of author posts.

As we get ready for the conference, we’ve rounded up some suggested advance reading for art and music aficionados, whether you’re going to the conference or just heading to the Big Apple in spirit. To save 30% now, use discount code 16W6596 for the following titles (enter code at checkout).

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

“The maps themselves are things of beauty.”—New York Times 

Twenty-six gorgeously rendered maps and informative essays chart New York city’s hidden histories in the final volume of Rebecca Solnit’s trilogy of atlases. Bringing together the insights of dozens of experts—from linguists to music historians, ethnographers, urbanists, and environmental journalists—amplified by cartographers, artists, and photographers, the book explores all five boroughs of New York City and parts of nearby New Jersey, celebrating the region’s incubation of the avant-garde and its literary history, while also critiquing its racial and economic inequality, environmental impact, and erasure of its past. Check out our previous blog posts on the atlas and follow @nonstopatlas on Twitter for more peeks inside the book.

Loft Jazz: Improvising New York in the 1970s by Michael C. Heller

“A vital chapter in downtown history . . . a study long overdue.”—Village Voice

The New York loft jazz scene of the 1970s was a pivotal period for uncompromising, artist-produced work. Faced with a flagging jazz economy, a group of young avant-garde improvisers chose to eschew the commercial sphere and develop alternative venues in the abandoned factories and warehouses of Lower Manhattan. Loft Jazz provides the first book-length study of this period, tracing its history amid a series of overlapping discourses surrounding collectivism, urban renewal, experimentalist aesthetics, underground archives, and the radical politics of self-determination. Learn more about the movement and the book in this Village Voice article.

Drawing the Line: The Early Work of Agnes Martin by Christina Bryan Rosenberger

If your interest was piqued by the recent Agnes Martin exhibition at the Guggenheim, then this revelatory study of the artist’s early works is just what you need. Beginning with Martin’s initiation into artistic language at the University of New Mexico and concluding with the reception of her grid paintings in New York in the early 1960s, author Christina Bryan Rosenberger offers vivid descriptions of the networks of art, artists, and information that moved between New Mexico and the creative centers of New York and California in the postwar period.

Consuming Stories: Kara Walker and the Imagining of American Race by Rebecca Peabody

New York-based artist Kara Walker is well known for her site-specific pieces around the city—”A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby” at the former Domino Sugar compound and her mural, “Event Horizon,” at the New School, among others. In this in-depth study, Rebecca Peabody delves deep into Walker’s brilliant and provocative art and her engagement with literary genres such as the romance novel, the neo-slave narrative, and the fairy tale to how Walker uses her tools and strategies to unsettle cultural histories  and examine assumptions about race, gender, power, and desire.


Uncovering Agnes Martin

For years, seeing Agnes Martin’s celebrated paintings required a pilgrimage. In the mid-1970s, a visit to Martin’s home and studio on a remote mesa in Cuba, New Mexico was not for the faint of heart: Martin could often be seen barreling across arroyos in her pick-up, rescuing lost visitors. Over time, the difficulty of seeing Martin and her paintings became part of the appeal of her work. Martin’s drawings, paintings and prints could increasingly be seen in museums in the United States and Europe, but she remained an “artist’s artist” and her critical reputation eclipsed her popular renown. For many fans of Martin’s work, including Terry Castle, who wrote of her own pilgrimage to see Martin’s paintings in Taos, Martin’s “semi-obscurity [wa]s sort of the point.”

No longer. Thanks to a recent spate of books, exhibitions, and magazine articles, Martin is finally having her moment. A long-overdue retrospective of Martin’s work, co-curated by Frances Morris and Tiffany Bell, closes at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on September 11th and opens at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York on October 7th. The first traveling retrospective of Martin’s work since 1992/1993, the exhibition is part of a critical re-evaluation of Martin’s work and her legacy within the history of art. Indeed, three museums currently have entire rooms devoted to Martin’s paintings—the Harwood Museum; DIA:Beacon; and, most recently, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

For those of us who have studied Martin’s work for years, all the fuss is a welcome change. I first encountered Martin’s work in a museum’s storage room, and was struck by the care with which Martin marshaled her artistic materials to create a drawing of uncommon power and sensitivity. Who was this artist? Why wasn’t she a household name? Why was her work in storage? It certainly wasn’t a question of quality. Martin was notoriously ambivalent with regard to her views on gender and sexuality, though there is no doubt that both worked against her in the art market. And while Martin often resisted large-scale exhibitions—for years, she declined to have an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art because she did not want a scholarly catalog produced—she was surprisingly savvy in the promotion of her art. To attract the notice of the New York dealer Betty Parsons in the late 1950s, for example, Martin rented an abandoned storefront outside of Taos and put up an exhibition of her own work—a solo show to compete with the best of them.

Rosenberger cover

Drawing the Line: The Early Work of Agnes Martin uncovers the ambition, determination and grit that characterized Martin’s rapid creative evolution, arguing that the germs of Martin’s artistic success can be found in her early work. It’s essential reading for anyone who visits the retrospective, and proves a useful companion for visitors who spend time with her paintings in museums across the globe. If seeing Martin’s art no longer requires a four-wheel drive vehicle, the rewards are no less spectacular.


Christina Bryan Rosenberger is an art historian living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a contributor to Tate Modern’s 2015 exhibition catalogue Agnes Martin and recently wrote on Martin’s 1978 film Gabriel for Artforum. She has taught modern art at the University of New Mexico and has served as Research Coordinator for the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art at the Harvard Art Museums.


Enter to win one of two copies of Drawing the Line: The Early Work of Agnes Martin in our Goodreads.com giveaway through August 20th.